Benches to be used as markers for cultural walks


A consortium of urban planners, architects and community leaders are looking into installing up to six wood benches as part of an effort to encourage cultural walks through Jefferson Park, Forest Glen and Sauganash.

“These will be used as historical markers for landmarks, places of importance,” said architect Odile Compagnon of the Good City Group, which received a grant to study how the area’s culture can be used to encourage people to walk and bike.

In the past year the group has held community input sessions, hosted walks and decorated an alley with historical images. The alley, which is across from the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, serves as a popular cut-through for pedestrians, and city officials are considering whether to close off a portion of the alley to vehicular traffic.

Members of the group built and designed a prototype bench for the project. “It was designed so it can be turned so that people can sit on it two different ways. One is for more upright and one’s more reclined,” said landscape architect Nilay Mistry.

The benches may include graphics that feature information on the historical places which are visible from where people would be sitting on the bench.

In addition, group members have discussed linking the project to an interactive app which would notify users anytime they are approaching a landmark along their walk. Users could then read information about the area while they are sitting on the bench and add their own comments, Compagnon said.

The group plans to conduct a community survey to determine where the benches should be placed, and it is seeking sponsors to maintain each bench, Compagnon said.

Good City members will be displaying a sample bench at the upcoming “Sunday Market,” which will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave.

The bench will be facing the Chicago Park District-owned Esdohr House, 4820 N. Long Ave., which was once used for craft activities at the park. The 135-year-old building, which is now used for storage, is believed to be the oldest brick house in Jefferson Park, according to Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth.

In August, a bench was temporarily placed across from the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St. The church, which was founded in 1861, represents the oldest congregation in Jefferson Park, and its current building was constructed about 85 years ago.

The project’s research has centered on communities near or along the Indian Boundary Line, which runs along Rogers Avenue on the Northwest Side, and it resulted from the Treaty of Saint Louis. The 1816 treaty, which several Native-American tribes signed, ceded a 20-mile corridor of land to the United States, and it was intended to provide safe passage to those traveling from Chicago to the Illinois River.

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